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Kimono to Kawaii: Japanese Fashion
Kimono and Lolita Group Exchange Their Passion

A presentation and gathering “Kimono to Kawaii: Japanese Fashion” took place on March 3 at the Japan Culture Center on Belmont Avenue in Chicago. The members from the Chicago Wahoo Club and Chicago Street Fashion community got together to speak about their own styles. The event was organized by the Japanese Arts Foundation of the Japanese Culture Center.


The kimono is a Japanese traditional style of clothing, and most Japanese people were regularly wearing it before WWII. As Japan has been westernized after the war, they only wear kimonos in special occasions such as a wedding ceremony and New Year’s Day. Wearing a kimono, however, has been becoming a trend as a hobby in recent years.

The Chicago Wahoo Club was formed in 2016 by kimono lovers in the Chicago area. The members have enjoyed wearing kimonos in monthly gatherings to promote traditional and contemporary Japanese kimono culture.

At the event of “Kimono to Kawaii”, the members wore different types of kimonos from casual to formal and spoke about each kimono type and occasions where you wear it.

The wool kimono is casual and everyday clothing with no liner, so it is washable. You can enjoy a variety of colors and patterns. You can also enjoy it with a haori jacket which is the same color and pattern or related pattern. The combination of a wool kimono and a haori jacket is called “ensemble kimono”.

The tsumugi is a woven kimono made of thicker silk threads, which are dyed before being woven. It is a stylish and fashionable kimono, so you can wear it and go to movies, shopping or restaurants, but it is not suitable for formal parties. “Ohshima tsumugi” is probably the most famous and expensive among the tsumugi kimonos.

The plain colored kimono is called “iromuji”. It often has beautiful woven patterns but a single color. Due to its simplicity, tea practitioners often wear iromuju for not to disturb tranquility of the tea room.

The iromuji has zero to five family crests. One crest is put on the back, three crests are put on the back and both sleeves, and five crests are put on the back, both sleeves, and both chests. An iromuji with five crests has the highest status.

The “tomesode” is the most formal kimono, which is worn on the celebrative occasion such as a wedding. It has gorgeous patterns on the skirt part, and cranes and pine trees are typical patterns for wishing longevity.

There are two types of tomesode. One is kuro (black) tomesode, and another is iro (color) tomesode. The former has five crests, and the later has three to five crests. Generally, single women wear iro tomesode.

Reiko, who was wearing iro tomesode with five crests, related an episode. Years ago, she thought that she was going to wear kuro tomesode at her brother-in-law’s wedding, but her mother-in-law told her, “you are too young to wear it,” and gave her an iro tomesode, which was probably her mother-in-law’s.

In recent years Japanese women enjoy wearing antique kimonos in their creative ways. Ayako was wearing an antique one from the 1930s. She coordinated it with a classic obi belt with elegant-pink obijime, a decorative string used to hold the obi belt.

Lolita Fashion

The Lolita Fashion is one of street fashions, which were spontaneously created by young people, not commercially elaborated by the fashion industry. The Lolita Fashion was developed by Japanese girls, who longed for the dress of the western princess; however, Lolita has drawn attentions from western women. Nowadays, different types of Lolita have been developed.

The member from Chicago Street Fashion introduced Sweet Lolita, Gothic Lolita, Classic Lolita, Japanese Gothic, and Decora.

Alice Conlon is fond of Sweet Lolita. She said, “Japanese street fashion is a nebulous thing and constantly changing. People are trying to find out a unique way that feels like oneself. That is attracting me to it.”

Alice used to sew dresses for her doll and though that she should wear them. She buys Lolita dresses from Japan and said, “That makes me happy.” She wears her Lolita dress on casual Fridays.

Kei LaVonne introduced Gothic Lolita, which used dark colors like gray, black, red, and green. She said that it became popular from the 1990s to early 2000s, and she looked at a Japanese magazine “Gothic & Lolita Bible”, then began to wear it. She was inspired by the fashion, which she never had seen before. Kei recommended the audience to look at the book and become creative. “You have fun and can be a standout.”

Emma, who operates Lolita Collective, an online shop of a designer group, showed a wonderful Classic Lolita fashion. Anybody who is interested in learning about Lolita, can visit

Lindsay Mathers, graphic designer and illustrator, displayed an Awesome Japanese Gothic Lolita. She was inspired by stories in Shojo Manga (girls’ magazine) and visual-kei music. Visual-kei is visual style in meaning. Kimono sleeves were completely matched with her black chic dress. She said that dynamic makeup was an important factor in Japanese Gothic. Lindsay’s website is

Kamilah of Hard Decora showed Decora Fashion, which was popular in Japan in the 1990s. It uses pastel colors like light pink, blue, purple, and orange, and bold illustrations of manga and anime which are drawn on shirts and dresses. Kamilah coordinated her dress with hat, jacket, socks, badges, and accessories. Kamilah’s website is

After the presentation, the attendees enjoyed tasting shochu liquor from Mesh&Bone, green tea from Rishi Tea, cold brew coffee with Kyoto Black, and hand-made Japanese sweets, sakura mochi cakes.

Amazingly, Alice Conlon searched a Japanese recipe of sakura mochi, translated it into English as much as she could and made it from scratch. She bought sakura leaves through an online shop. It was genuine sakura mochi and very delicious.

Presentator of "Kimono to Kawaii" pose for a photo at the Japan Culture Center

The members of the Chicago Wahoo Club explain each type of kimono.

Sweet Lolita
Gothic Lolita
Classic Lolita

Japanese Gothic Lolita

Decora Fashion